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And darkness covered my soul

A few days ago, I learned a friend of mine had been accused of child molestation.

Accused. Not convicted.

Sad that in a legal system that supposedly considers the accused innocent until proven guilty, in cases of pedophilia, the opposite holds true. His full name and hometown was printed in the papers and online, and public outrage has been swift and vicious. I read account after account of the various, and hideously ingenious ways my friend should be tortured, raped, and executed, each more grisly and graphic than the last.

And darkness covered my soul.

This is not the first time a friend of mine has been so accused. It is, in fact, the fifth. Two were Roman Catholic priests, one, the pastor of a church who welcomed us when our own church would not; the other, a dear friend and spiritual director; another was a neighbour and friend of my husband; and the last, a member of a choir I directed. All went to prison. The two priests confessed, our neighbour considered his punishment disproportionate to his offence, and the other maintains his innocence to this day.

And now again.

I cannot and do not excuse anyone, friend or no, of their crimes against the innocent. I have said for a long time that the Roman Catholic Church shames itself by fighting the monetary penalties handed down by the courts. I believe the Church should impoverish itself, turn its pockets inside out to help the victims. At any cost. Whatever it takes. That would be a powerful Christian witness, in my opinion. And I hope someday this will come to pass.

But even if all victims, in the Church and out, are compensated and given the means to start putting their lives back together, what do we do with the offenders? The men who are our friends and neighbours?

They must be held accountable, yes. They must not be allowed to offend again, yes. Society must be assured of protection, yes. But dare I ask, is there no healing for them?

As a survivor of sexual abuse, I understand the raw emotion behind those who wrote about what they would like to see happen to my friend. It’s only natural. And we all have to come to grips with our pain in our own time, in our own way. But I believe such gleeful celebrations of vigilante fantasies actually encourages more violence and does nothing to stem the steadily rising tide of sexual abuse. “Kill the bastards,” might sound like a simple solution, but these men were not born abusers. And until we are willing to learn how they got that way, and how we as a society must change so pedophilia becomes a thing of the past, children will never be safe, and men will never be whole.

So I cannot join in the choruses calling for my friend’s destruction. Instead, I’ll sit and grieve for all the victims, all the abusers, a legal system that can only punish, a church that cannot heal its most wounded members, a society drowning in violence, and another friend sitting in a jail cell.

I’ll grieve, and wonder, and pray healing for us all.

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2 Comments

  1. Valerie Hess
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    I am so sorry, Penny-Anne. How very awful! And you are right: even with justice done well, there are no winners in situations like this. None.

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted November 14, 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      I do have faith Valerie, that all can be healed. I just don’t know how. And it grieves me. Thanks for your comments.

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